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Billonaire T. Boone Pickens has made a fortune in the oil industry, now he plans to apply his financial skills to the wind power business.  (Source: AP)
Billonaire T. Boone Pickens bets big on wind energy

In a world that has been fossil fuel dependent for decades, many people and companies are finally realizing the financial, social, and environmental benefits of alternative energy and are going green. Alternative-energy is by no means a new idea. Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 1921 "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect," and in his research he discovered how solar energy to be converted into electricity.

While solar power projects such as adhesive solar panels may be getting the majority of attention, wind power is being put to use for everything from converting salt water into drinking water to generating electricity. This concept of "going green" is so contagious that you might be surprised who decides to join the bandwagon.

Oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens decided to go green by investing in alternative energy. To start out, he’s already bought 667 1.5 megawatt wind turbines from GE and plans to put them in a massive stretch of land in Texas, which could quite possibly enable the wind farm to become the world’s largest, producing power to maintain 1.3 million homes.

Pickens’ project is scheduled to start construction in 2010, spanning the Texas counties of Roberts, Gray, Hemphill and Wheeler. The massive project would encompass 200,000 acres of land and the number of active turbines could be as high as 2,000. Some of the larger turbines will put out around 2.5 megawatts of power each. Keep in mind that that each megawatt can provide energy to 250 Texas homes as stated by American Wind Energy Association’s Susan Williams Sloan.

So why is the Pickens so interested in wind power? He believes wind power to be both stable and available. He states, "The Department of Energy came out with a study in April of '07 that said we could generate 20 percent of our electricity from wind. And the wind power is -- you know, it's clean, it's renewable. It's -- you know, it's everything you want. And it's a stable supply of energy." 

What do the landowners have to say in the matter? Pickens' spokesman Mike Boswell says, "We have entered into a limited number of agreements with a limited number of landowners to put in some test towers." Boswell also states that the deal with the landowners should be finalized by the end of summer.

While it hasn't been built yet, Pickens financial expertise should get his wind farm off the ground and running. This project definitely looks like it's off to an interesting start. Will Pickens be as successful in the alternative energy industry as he was in the oil business? Only time will tell.



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The real benefit...
By masher2 (blog) on 5/27/2008 10:19:42 AM , Rating: 3
> "many people and companies are finally realizing the financial, social, and environmental benefits of alternative energy"

At present, the financial benefits of wind power are primarily the massive government subsidies that exist to underwrite it...subsidies that come out of the average taxpayers pocket, whether or not they realize it.




RE: The real benefit...
By geddarkstorm on 5/27/2008 12:56:41 PM , Rating: 2
Until you start selling that wind farm energy back into the grid, and over time you'll pay for the project and start making quite a bit of money. My average monthly electric bill over the year is roughly 150 bucks. Even if the electric company only gives him 75 bucks of that, put over a million homes in a high temperature environment (lots of AC), and you're going to be making an impressive lot--near or over a billion per year with this low maintenance system.

The man obviously plans for the long term. Subsidies make it a lot easier to set up, but I wouldn't think that'd be the only thing he's looking at. And yes, maybe tax payers are paying for the wind farm, but it helps everybody so it's all good as long as it's not more tax payer money than a government wind farm project would take.


RE: The real benefit...
By Ringold on 5/27/2008 4:51:58 PM , Rating: 2
If its so clearly profitable, why the subsidy at all? Startup costs are of little concern to billionaires. Internal rates of return, that's different -- but you are suggesting they are favorable either way.

I did a quick Google to look at what subsidies were, but I struck a gold mine here:

http://www.powermag.com/ExportedSite/BlogArticles/...

I bet Boone loves environemtanlists. If you check out those subsidies, they're handing him an amazing near-zero risk government-backed money tree.

Can I have one of those? I don't need billions, I'll be content with a million bucks.


RE: The real benefit...
By MadMaster on 5/28/2008 9:59:42 PM , Rating: 2
Subsidies have been helping many energy companies get off the ground. Coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, and nuclear have all enjoyed numerous subsidies in the past.

Even natural gas is getting a $500 million subsidy in Canada...
http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/418493.html

quote:
Startup costs are of little concern to billionaires.


LMAO!

There's a good reason you're not a Billionaire. (much less a Millionaire)


RE: The real benefit...
By Ringold on 5/28/2008 10:25:22 PM , Rating: 2
Why would they matter?

Obviously a good example why you aren't a billionaire either; you should know that only the return matters.


RE: The real benefit...
By MadMaster on 5/29/2008 1:42:28 AM , Rating: 1
Both matter a great deal! And a heck of a lot more matters...


RE: The real benefit...
By Ringold on 5/29/2008 6:13:08 PM , Rating: 2
One line empty attacks get old. What are you, 12?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_rate_of_retu...

That, along with NPV and MIRR (do I need to link to all 3?), are the basic tools anybody would ever need, all of which measure return of efficiency thereof.

My basic assumption was that billionaires are not capital restrained, so as should be obvious with all of the above, if one is not capital resrained all that matters... is return (versus opportunity cost, ie, forgone investments elsewhere). Given that banks allow billionaires to leverage up to insane amounts, I think it's a sound assumption for sake of argument.


RE: The real benefit...
By MadMaster on 5/29/2008 9:51:41 PM , Rating: 2
No, I'm just too lazy to argue with ignorance.


RE: The real benefit...
By Ringold on 5/30/2008 5:24:29 AM , Rating: 2
Do me a favor and troll other people in the future, eh?

Or maybe call the Hate Hannity Hotline, might make you feel better.


RE: The real benefit...
By ICUSandman on 5/31/2008 5:53:36 PM , Rating: 2
>"If its so clearly profitable, why the subsidy at all?"

Look at how profitable oil has been with record profits and they get billions in subsidies every year. If we are going to subsidize anything it should be renewable or at least a product of the US and not imported.


RE: The real benefit...
By masher2 (blog) on 5/27/2008 4:57:23 PM , Rating: 1
> "Until you start selling that wind farm energy back into the grid, and over time you'll pay for the project "

If the project could stand on its own and pay for itself, no government subsidies would be needed. Point of fact, the only reason wind is generating venture capital interest is because these investors want a portion of the massive government subsidies being slung around.

> "maybe tax payers are paying for the wind farm, but it helps everybody"

Large-scale wind farms are not going to help our energy problems. Especially in Texas, a state that, the hotter it gets, the more likely it is for the wind to stop blowing. So when you need the power the most -- it's not there. There was already a large blackout in Texas due to this.


RE: The real benefit...
By smitty3268 on 5/27/2008 8:42:46 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think anyone is talking about relying on wind power - that would just be silly.

Anyway, I don't think you would see many people investing they're money here if they didn't think there was a chance it would be profitable. The rub is that it's pretty risky and no one knows what's going to happen. The government subsidies just reduce that risk, they aren't actually paying anyone to take the wind mills or anything.


RE: The real benefit...
By phxfreddy on 5/27/2008 11:37:14 PM , Rating: 4
Its ludicrous to factor in Einsteins photoelectric effect the way you did in this article.

Wind power is a dilute energy source. If you calculate it all the installed power base does not match APS's Palo Verde Nuclear plant by 1000 in terms of capacity.

Yet I heard James Cramer say 10% of American steel was going into towers for wind generators. Makes you think if we press much harder into wind power steel prices will be the limiting factor for wind in a way analogous to corn prices limiting ethanol!

I have to add that Boone is playing the business game the way he should. He sees the nonsense that passes for energy policy in terms of making drilling in ANWR off limits. He see energy is going up and that he will be able to sell all his power at a profit when soon the time arrives with higher prices.

However wind is not a good energy decision for the country. Not because of steel but because it diverts public attention from the one source that could do the heavy lift....and have you guessed it yet? It is nuclear.

There will come a day soon people will wail at the prices. And believe you me. We fill the energy gap by burning environMENTALists at the stake and driving steam turbines with the waste heat.


RE: The real benefit...
By FITCamaro on 5/28/2008 2:11:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
We fill the energy gap by burning environMENTALists at the stake and driving steam turbines with the waste heat.


Why wait? Al Gore alone has enough fat to burn for at least a year.


RE: The real benefit...
By kattanna on 5/27/2008 3:57:28 PM , Rating: 2
i have no problem with some of my tax dollars going to help get alternative forms of power into industrial/commercial scales of production.

i do though have issues with oil companies reporting record profits and still receiving subsidies and tax breaks.


RE: The real benefit...
By Ringold on 5/27/2008 4:40:11 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
i do though have issues with oil companies reporting record profits and still receiving subsidies and tax breaks.


Okay, time to call people out.

Billionaires can take tax payer money to help make more billions, but only if its not in oil?

Second point. Go forth, look at effective tax rates for the oil, nat gas and oil services industry, and then compare them to the rest of corporate America. Then provide evidence that oil companies are getting an unfair tax advantage. After you do that homework, go look at happened to domestic production and imports after Carter slapped them with 'windfall profits' taxes.

Aw, shucks. I'll help you out with that last one. Domestic production tanked, imports ratcheted up. If anyone bothered to understand or consider supply and demand, windfall profits taxes just discourage domestic production and provide a benefit to oil importers. Only 4% or so of global production comes from private companies, the rest comes from foreign state-owned firms we can't touch.


RE: The real benefit...
By smitty3268 on 5/27/2008 8:36:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Billionaires can take tax payer money to help make more billions, but only if its not in oil?

I also think that's pretty stupid, although it's not really an unusual viewpoint that government should encourage certain policies, no matter who is doing it.

quote:
Then provide evidence that oil companies are getting an unfair tax advantage.

The oil companies specifically get huge tax huge tax windfalls, that's all the proof I need. They're some of the most profitable companies in the world - why do they deserve my tax money, when it could be part of a tax cut for me instead.

quote:
windfall profits taxes just discourage domestic production and provide a benefit to oil importers.

I have mixed feelings about a windfall tax, as there are pros and cons like almost everything in government. However, on the whole I tend to agree. If the oil companies suddenly jack prices way up for no reason, then we talk windfall taxes. Until then, if the free market seems to be working government should just stay out of the way.


RE: The real benefit...
By phxfreddy on 5/28/2008 12:08:02 AM , Rating: 2
Its good to give money to Big Oil

Government gives nothing for your toil

A tax? A fee? Tack on the bottom line

Its only you the buyer more in a bind

From Exxon we get petrolatum in The Pounder size

And thus my right arm gets its exercise!

http://www.amarketplaceofideas.com/when-paying-gas...


RE: The real benefit...
By Ringold on 5/28/2008 4:30:10 AM , Rating: 6
quote:
The oil companies specifically get huge tax huge tax windfalls, that's all the proof I need.


If that were a homework question, you'd of failed. You made an accusation, and then didn't provide the data.

Right off the top, I'll point out in 2006 (when oil was comparatively cheap), oil companies paid $138 billion in taxes, compared to $136b payed by the bottom 75% of tax payers.

Yahoo Finance and Quote.com immediately provides some quick data, like Exxon Mobil's mediocre profit margins. Less than 11%, compared to GE's 12.68%, Apple's 15%, Intel's 17%, etc. A higher tax rate would just punish its size, but size provides efficiencies of scale -- and lower costs for consumers in the end (higher production).

But lets look at income statements.

Dec 31 07 Revenue: 404 billion
Operating Expenses: 334 billion
Income: 70 billion
Income taxes: 30 billion (a hair less)
Effective tax rate: 42.38 %

Oh, dear. I thought the corporate tax rate was 35%. Where are these tax breaks? Maybe other companies pay more as well?

GE? 15.53%
IR? 18%
Apple? 29%
Walmart? 33%

I picked an industrial, construction, tech and a retailer. Only Walmart, oddly, comes close, despite having the lowest profit margins of the bunch. Still far lower than 42%.

All of the above I got from either Quote.com or Yahoo, depending on which site wanted to work at that given moment. Not a right-wing blogs data, not American Petroleum Institutes data, but raw data. Quote.com calculates the rates for you, Yahoo makes you whip out a calculator.

Do it for yourself and you too, hopefully, will wonder where these mythical tax breaks show up since the oil industry pays out the nose already compared to the rest of corporate America.

Oh, and in case you thought I cherry-picked Exxon, Chevron's effective tax rate is 46.9%.

We could surely soak them for even more, but remember, extraction costs are getting higher, not lower. Engineers specializing in that field are scarce, equipment is expensive, and PBR has NOV oil rig production booked for years in to the future alone. The less money they have to invest in drilling, the less they'll produce. The less oil comes to market, the higher the price.

I dont know how much air time it got in the mainstream media, but Russia recently changed its taxes to encourage more production. How? Tax cut.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKL26212402...

Amazing that former communists have a deeper understanding of economics than Americans who were born in a capitalist state to begin with.

quote:
However, on the whole I tend to agree. If the oil companies suddenly jack prices way up for no reason, then we talk windfall taxes.


So, despite the fact it'd have the net effect of increased dependency on foreign oil, you're in favor. At any rate, oil companies have no control over the price, buyers set the price competitively. Want lower prices? Pump more, or ask, very nicely, China to stop raising so many people from poverty.


RE: The real benefit...
By masher2 (blog) on 5/28/2008 9:25:13 AM , Rating: 2
> "Effective tax rate: 42.38 % "

Excellent post. Nothing explodes the myth of "big oil tax breaks" like hard data.


RE: The real benefit...
By kattanna on 5/28/2008 9:59:46 AM , Rating: 2
ahh, well then. that puts things into a different light.

thank you for taking the time to present some facts.


RE: The real benefit...
By Keeir on 5/28/2008 12:34:07 PM , Rating: 2
I would like to add that additional industry wide taxes tend to only raise consumer prices, IE, if we raised the taxes on the oil/gas companies, we would just end up paying more for gasoline/oil etc as a percentage of the tax would be directly passed to the consumer based on the shape of the demand curve. Given the rather sharp slope of the demand curve for these products, I would think nearly 100% of any new taxes on the oil/gas industry would go directly into raised prices. The actual dollar amount that each company makes would be relatively unaffected.


RE: The real benefit...
By FITCamaro on 5/28/2008 2:07:52 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I would think nearly 100% of any new taxes on the oil/gas industry would go directly into raised prices. The actual dollar amount that each company makes would be relatively unaffected.


Shhhh.....don't tell Hillary, Obama, or half of Congress.


RE: The real benefit...
By MadMaster on 5/28/2008 9:46:41 PM , Rating: 2
No...

Oil companies do not set the price of their oil.

If you're talking about secondary effects( "causing less drilling so investers invest more" sorta stuff) ...well... that's anybodies guess.


RE: The real benefit...
By BMFPitt on 5/28/2008 3:56:00 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Effective tax rate: 42.38%
I'd like to question how these numbers were arrived at. I know that many forgien nations with oil charge a 90% "tax" on oil exports, which is just another way of saying "you can keep 10% of our oil if you drill it for us."

I agree that a windfall profits tax is as dumb and counterproductive as a gas tax holiday, but I find it incredibly unlikely that U.S. corporate taxes are hitting them for over 40% given my understanding of the business. There's got to be some creative accounting going on to get those numbers.


RE: The real benefit...
By Ringold on 5/28/2008 10:20:09 PM , Rating: 2
Well, revenue is a straightforward definition. Revenue - Expenses = Income, then I divided their tax payout by their income. I'm not an accountant, but that's how Quote.com calculated it, and it seems proper.

The only place where I can see something strange happening is what they call operating expenses.

The overall figure doesn't shock me, though. The base corporate tax rate is 35%, and decades of manipulation by both lobbyists of industry and lobbyists from various extreme political groups has led to big variations and industry-specific rules. 42% is only 7% above the base rate, a 7% penalty seems low for a firm that has been so hated for so long by so many different people.

Also, I spent time in Google and found people citeing the average tax rate for the entire industry going back several years, as soon as the industry got to be in popular political cross hairs.

http://www.quote.com/us/stocks/financials.action?s...

Can look for yourself, perhaps someone a little familiar with corporate accounting could explain how they've become so shafted, but just looking over their financial statements 42% appears the proper number, and it seems to jive with everything else in their statements. Given their revenue, their cash flow isn't eye-popping. (Indeed, at the end of the day, they're adding debt) At the very least, I see little evidence of favorable net treatment, which was the point in contention.


RE: The real benefit...
By wordsworm on 5/28/08, Rating: -1
RE: The real benefit...
By niks on 5/31/2008 12:01:45 PM , Rating: 2
What about the direct subsidies the oil industry still gets? They turn $10 billion quarterly profits, made up of our purchasing fuel and our taxes helping them with 'exploration costs', as if they were so massive they had no way to cover them themselves.

Plus, we are putting subsidies into something that will pay off and will be better for the environment. Yeah, it takes land to put up windmills, but they don't spew out pollution that will affect a much larger area of earth.


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